Matt Bouman grabbed his first win in the Bay Union Surfski Series by taking advantage of superb weather conditions and his ingrained ability handling the surf to win the novel Lion of Africa Surf Challenge, while junior Kyeta Purchase pulled off a stunning come-from-behind move to take the women’s title.
Bouman (Epic Kayaks) had to assert himself early on to get away from team mate Wade Krieger, winner of the first leg of the five race series, with Luke Nisbet snapping at both of their heels throughout.
Bouman ground out a lead on the downwind leg to the turning buoy close to the mouth of the uMgeni River, and then saw that erased as they turned for home.
“I opted for a deep line to the top turn-can, but the can wasn’t where I expected it to be,” said Bouman. “Fortunately Luke (Nisbet) was following me but Wade (Krieger) took his own initiative and went straight to the buoy which nullified any advantage we had earned.”
The organisers of the Lion of Africa Surf Challenge set out to test each paddler’s skills in the surf, and set a course that required them to turn around two markers in the surf zone on South Beach and Addington Beach.
His superior surf skills allowed Bouman to get away from his two chasers to canter home to an impressive minute-and-a-half win.
“It was good fun on the home leg when we had to do some surf slalom around some terrified gentlemen holding the surf turn-flags. I had the luxury of a lead going into the last turn and could watch the other two fighting it out for second.”
Bouman said he thrived on the high standard of surfski racing in the series, saying that Durban boasted some of the world’s best.
“We race at such a high level week in a week out, in this great surfski culture in Durban. That’s the key to why we can produce world-beaters,” he said.
Bouman said the absence of Hank McGregor, who was attending a family wedding, had changed the character of the race.
“Sometimes it is actually harder to paddle without that edge that is always there when you are racing Hank (McGregor),” said Bouman.
Krieger out-sprinted Nisbet to the line to claim second, with Czech Republic marathoner Jakub Adam coming back from a poor start in the surf to claim fourth, ahead of junior Bailey de Fondamiere.
In the women’s race, Nikki Russell (Fenn Kayaks/Mocké Paddling) looked to be controlling the race with schoolgirl Kyeta Purchase (Euro Steel) on her wave throughout race, with team mate Jenna Ward keeping both of them honest.
After doing most of the work in the race, Russell looked to have the upper hand as they turned at the last turn-can and headed back to the beach finish at Addington Beach.
Purchase however latched onto a decent sized wave and rode it beautifully, allowing her first to erase Russell’s lead and then blitz past her to claim the overall women’s spoils.
“The whole race while I was paddling with her I was hoping to be able to leave it to the last wave,” said a relieved Purchase.
“At the first surf turn she dropped me, then she got hit by a wave at the second surf turn and I managed to catch back up to her,” she said.
While elated to have won the overall women’s class Purchase said the elite women contesting the Sunday morning titles were all team mates and training partners.
“We never know who is going to win it every Sunday but at least we know that it will be one of our team mates. That’s really cool,” said Purchase, who’s surfski calendar is part of her preparations for the marathon world Championships in Brandenberg in Germany in September.
Louis Hattingh, the 2014 Junior marathon K2 world champ, won the Worst Wave Award for a novel start that saw him leap straight over his ski during the lifesaving style start, and then repeat that feat in the reverse direction.
A good sized field enjoyed the superb weather and mild ocean conditions for the 12km long course and 6km short races as the province breathed a sigh of relief after the cold front that swept over the region released its grip.
The fourth leg of the series is the Bay Union Dairy Doubles Surfski Challenge based at Dairy Beach on Sunday 8 May 2016.
LION OF AFRICA SURF CHALLENGE
LONG COURSE MEN’S SINGLES
1.Matt Bouman 51:18
2.Wade Krieger 52:41
3.Luke Nisbet 52:46
LONG COURSE WOMEN’S SINGLES
1.Kyeta Purchase 59:56
2.Nikki Russell 1:00:01
3.Jenna Ward 1:02:22
LONG COURSE DOUBLES
1.Jason Ekstrand/Richard Lowe 52:46
2.Linton Hope/Bruce Wenke 54:13
3.Bryce Hatton/Marc Stanton 55:12
1.Ian Greig/Neil Greig 31:26
2.Byron Volek/Bridgette Parker 33:40
3.Ken Reynolds/Caitlin Borain 34:03
1.Jon Ivins 44:45
2.Kade Burnett 51:11
Images: Kevin Sawyer